Rank(s): Lieutenant Commander
Dates of Service: 2/16/1866 - 2/26/1866
Birth Date: 10/2/1836
Death Date: 1/29/1911
Edmund O. Matthews was born in Baltimore, Maryland on October 2, 1836. His family later moved to Missouri, and he was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy from that state on October 2, 1851. After graduation in 1855, he was assigned to the frigate Potomac. He next served aboard the sloops Saratoga and Macedonian in the Mediterranean Squadron. He became a master in 1858 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in July 1860. In 1861, Matthews was assigned to the steam frigate Wabash and assisted in the capture of Confederate forts at Hatteras, North Carolina. He was commissioned lieutenant commander on July 16, 1862 and commanded the sidewheel steamer Sonoma in the South Atlantic Squadron from June 1864 to July 1865.
Matthews was senior instructor of the stationary training ship Constitution from February 16, 1866 to February 26, 1866 at the Naval Academy.
From November 1865 to June 1869, Matthews was on duty at the Naval Academy and served on Admiral John A. Dahlgren’s staff. In 1867, he became assistant to the commandant of midshipmen and was in charge of the Department of Gunnery. In 1869, Matthews became the first commanding officer of the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. He was promoted to commander in 1870 and, in 1871, built and tested the U.S. Navy’s first torpedo. Matthews developed many underwater weapons during his time at the Naval Torpedo Station, including a successful self-propelled torpedo. None of his designs was ever produced in volume, however.
In July 1873, Matthews took command of the sidewheel gunboat Ashuelot on the navy’s Asiatic station. He spent the next five years conducting various expeditions and diplomatic engagements in China, Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines. From 1878 to 1881, Matthews served as inspector of ordnance at the navy yard in New York and was promoted to captain in September 1881. He commanded the sidewheel steamer Powhatan, on special service from August 1881 to September 1883. Matthews also commanded the screw sloop Brooklyn on the Asiatic station from 1885 to 1887 and the Boston Navy Yard from 1887 to 1890. In July 1894, Matthews was promoted to commodore. On June 19, 1898, he was promoted to rear admiral and became president of the Naval Examining Board. Matthews retired from the navy on October 24, 1898 and died on January 29, 1911.